Professor Adam Nelson

Professor Adam Nelson


I am Professor of Chemical Biology within the School of Chemistry and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds.  I was appointed as a Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at Leeds in 1998, and was promoted to a personal chair in 2005.  I was Director of the Astbury Centre (2009-11), and currently lead on industrial engagement within the Centre.  I am currently the lead for the "Next-Generation Chemistry for Medicine" theme within the UK's Rosalind Franklin Institute, and sit on EPSRC's Healthcare Technologies Strategic Advisory Team.  I am currently an EPSRC Established Career Fellow (focusing on automated functional small molecule discovery), and a co-investigator on the EPSRC programme grant PoPPI (focusing on tools for discovering protein-protein interaction inhibitors).


  • Head, Chemical Biology & Medicinal Chemistry group
  • Industry lead, Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology

Research interests

My group is interested in synthetic organic chemistry and its application to biological problems. We focus on the development of new strategies and methods for the synthesis and discovery of biologically-active small molecules.

Synthesis is an immensely powerful tool in Chemical Biology, which we exploit in a wide range of applications; from the evolution of new enzymes for synthetic chemistry, to the discovery of new modulators of protein function.  We have developed a range of chemical approaches that enable diverse chemical space to be explored effectively.  Our recent discovery approach - activity-directed synthesis - is structure-blind, and enables the discovery of bioactive small molecules on the basis of their function alone.

Prospective PhD students may apply for PhD studentships with me via the School of Chemistry (for wholly synthetic projects), or via managed PhD programmes funded by the Wellcome Trust or BBSRC (managed through the Faculty of Biological Sciences; closing date: early January each year).


  • PhD, University of Cambridge (1996)
  • MA, University of Cambridge (1993)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Student education

I teach organic chemistry and chemical biology at undergraduate and taught postgraduate levels. I supervise Masters research projects in the chemical biology area. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>
    <li><a href="//">Activity-directed synthesis of bioactive small molecules</a></li> <li><a href="//">Unified synthesis of diverse bioactive chemical probes</a></li>